Staggeringly Valuable

I probably use my laptop, a 2021 MacBook Pro, more than any other tool I own. It enables and amplifies my efforts in countless ways, and as a consequence I consider the few thousands dollars I paid for it to be money well-spent.

I don’t drive my car very often—I only really use it for roadtrips. But it doesn’t require much upkeep, cost me a relative pittance to acquire (as cars go), and makes those overland jaunts to far-flung locales feasible, as otherwise I’d have to spend a fortune on rental cars to get where mass-transit options won’t take me; so I put my little 2007 Prius in the “money well-spent” category, as well.

I could probably count on two hands the things I’ve bought that I consider to be staggeringly valuable, in the sense that they empower me in important ways, or add something truly vital to my life.

Most of these items, because of how fundamental they’ve become to how I live and operate, are also nearly invisible: I only really think about my car when it needs an oil change or when I’m prepping it for a trip, and my computer is just the technological appendage I use to make and distribute things, requiring about as much focused consideration as my elbow or eyebrow.

In contrast, I’ve been fortunate to have experienced a large number of things I would consider to be valuable at this scale, and while some of these experiences are travel-related, many of them are less swashbuckling and Instagrammable in nature, and more subdued and internal.

Learning to cook, for instance, didn’t cost me much of anything, but the value I’ve derived from those initial “let’s figure this out” efforts (and the small investments I’ve made in cooking gear over the years) have paid out such spectacular dividends it would be difficult to estimate their value.

Similarly, learning how to read research papers, deciding to get better at interacting and communicating with people (back in my awkward middle school years), and figuring out how to keep my expenses low and how to remain debt-free are all undertakings from which I’ve benefitted far out of proportion to the investments I made in them, to the point where the interest I’ve gleaned has become a core background element of my life.

I own things that are flashier and super-useful-in-the-moment, and I’ve done things—like my many travels all over the place—that are likewise more impressive in some contexts, and which have also helped me garner all sorts of lessons and fresh (to me) perspectives.

But the priceless stuff, in my experience at least, also tends to be simple and humble; things, experiences, and learnings that are obvious in retrospect, become invisible day-to-day, and which are worth far more than their initial cost, over time.

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